Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Red Hills Rebirth

     Red Hills ranchers gather to help a neighbor couple burn a portion of their ranch today in Barber County.  Conditions were favorable for a safe and successful burn.  Grasslands are maintained by fire as a historically occurring event.  Fire helped keep trees from invading prairies.  Prescribed burning, which places fire back into the ecological formula for the land, helps to return the prairie to its naturally productive state--for cattle and for wildlife.  Partners in this effort included members of the Gyp Hills Prescribed Burn Association, Kansas Prescribed Burn Association, Kansas Prescribed Fire Council, The Nature Conservancy and several ranchers from other areas of the Red Hills. 

Its better to have too many helpers then not enough when you are doing prescribed burns!  Here, the burn boss goes over the detailed plan for the day and gives assignments.
It all starts here, with the backfire.

Fire is necessary for a healthy prairie.  The positive return on investment will be realized in a few short weeks as the prairie springs to live in green glory.  A headfire does the front-end attack on these nasty cedar trees!
Burned prairie fuel reaches for the sun.

It gets a little smoky on the fire line.  Here, the burn boss, Ted, gives instructions.

Charlie and his family have lived in the Red Hills for many, many years and knows the value of fire on the landscape.  He is enjoying the view of newly burned ground and knows that the regrowth of grass will be good for the cattle and the wildlife.  "If we could just get rid of all those cedars!"

Backfires and headfires meet to finish off the last of the old growth and the encroaching cedar trees.

A cedar tree going up in flames is joy to these ranchers as well as many wildlife species.  Prairies don't need cedars for healthy wildlife populations--including deer!